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2017 Distinguished Scientist -
Sekar Kathiresan, MD, FAHA

Sekar Kathiresan, MD, FAHASekar Kathiresan, MD, FAHA
Director, Center for Genomic Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital
Director, Cardiovascular Disease Initiative
Broad Institute
Boston, Mass.

Dr. Sekar Kathiresan has pursued a systematic approach to understand the inherited basis for myocardial infarction (MI) in order to discover root causes, inform new therapeutic approaches, and identify at-risk individuals. He has distinguished non-causal factors (HDL cholesterol) from causal factors (LDL cholesterol and triglyceride-rich lipoproteins). His work identified that individuals who carry loss-of-function coding mutations in either of two genes – APOC3 and ANGPTL3 – rapidly clear triglyceride-rich lipoproteins from the circulation and have substantially lower MI risk. These observations have inspired the development of medicines to mimic these protective mutations.

In the past year, he has uncovered two non-lipid pathways underlying MI risk: (1) genes that regulate the migration of inflammatory cells across the blood vessel lining into the artery wall; and (2) acquired mutations in blood stem cells that increase with aging and provoke inflammation. Finally, he has developed a genetic test (i.e., polygenic risk score) to predict risk for MI and shown that statin therapy and/or a healthier lifestyle can modify inherited risk.

Dr. Kathiresan is the current Director of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Initiative at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He immigrated to the United States in 1980 from India and attended public schools in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before graduating summa cum laude with a B.A. in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He went on to receive his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1997 and completed clinical training in internal medicine and cardiology at MGH. He served as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at MGH in 2002-2003. From 2003-2008, he pursued post-doctoral research training in cardiovascular genetics through a combined experience at the Framingham Heart Study and Broad Institute.